Hours before a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Wednesday chanting “stop the steal,” similar shouts could be heard nearly 7,000 miles away in Tokyo.
At a rally in the Japanese capital, Trump supporters clutching banners that read “Trump Will Win” and “Stop Fake News!” peddled the same false claim that the election was stolen from the president. It was an early sign that Trumpian conspiracy theories will outlive Trump’s presidency even as he appears to have conceded on Friday.
For Japanese believers of QAnon, the fight is far from over. To them, the suspension of Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts on Wednesday was further proof of their unfounded theory that a group of elite paedophiles are plotting against Trump in order to cover up its global child trafficking ring. They were among the hundreds of demonstrators who marched in Tokyo streets on Wednesday night to deny the 2020 U.S. election outcome.
QAnon has taken root in over 70 countries, according to researcher Marc-André Argentino. Since the theory took off in October 2017 on the 4chan anonymous image board, the QAnon conspiracy theory has found a particularly large following in Japan, where believers are active on Twitter and have organized demonstrations.
In late November, some 200 people gathered in a Tokyo park to back Trump’s false claims of election fraud. More recently, on Dec. 27, roughly 300 QAnon believers gathered in Nagoya prefecture, some bringing their families for a Sunday outing.
Akira Ishida, 78, the president of the Nagoya QAnon group and organizer of the December protest, said he was motivated by the evils of the “deep state,” a conglomerate of governments and media organizations supposedly on a mission to take down Trump. As reported by the Chunichi Shinbun, Ishida believes that the “Chinese Communist Party, which is connected to the Deep State, created the coronavirus and launched a cyberattack to take over the United States.”
None of the conspiracy theory’s core is lost in translation, as Japanese supporters translate and interpret key content before passing it on to their peers. Knowledge is shared most commonly through Twitter, YouTube and personal blogs.
One YouTuber called Mr. Tomotomi claims his channel, Tomotomi: New Government, loves “justice and the truth.” He’s attracted over three million views since October of 2018, when he first started sharing information on Trump and QAnon.
In another demonstration of conspiracy theories’ resilience against reality, in Japan QAnon’s sprawling, unfounded claims have not only found a receptive audience but also adapted to regional interests.
Masami Takano, a 52-year old Japanese QAnon follower, said she believes the March 2011 earthquake and subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster were organized terrorist attacks. “We can’t trust politicians. They don’t tell us the truth. The entire government is rotting away,” she told VICE World News.
Trump, on the other hand, with his vocal anti-Chinese position, proved to be a refreshing antithesis to Japan’s inactive political elite. Bold, brazen and loud, Trump is idolized by Takano as her “savior.” “He’s not just the United States’ president, but the world’s president. Japanese people wish we could have someone like him in our government.”
To be clear, QAnon is a fringe conspiracy theory believed by a fraction of Japanese people. There is also no evidence to back up any of its anonymous leader's claims. One of the most popular Japanese QAnon Twitter accounts has fewer than 57,000 followers, and many users are frequently suspended for spreading misinformation. But increasing interest in this conspiracy demonstrates how pro-Trump sentiment is resonating globally.
The anti-China component of QAnon has also been embraced by Japanese conservatives, such as Takano, who suspect that their politicians are colluding with China and see Trump as the only man capable of containing Beijing’s ambitions.
“Everything is going as we hoped,” Takano said.
“We’re entering the final stage and we’re excited about what will happen on the 20th,” she said, alluding to the theory that Trump’s loss is part of a deliberate plan to expose the anti-Trump “deep state.”
Acknowledging the work of QAnon believers across the Pacific, their American counterparts are offering words of encouragement.
Congratulatory messages such as “It’s all going according to plan” and “WWG1WGA, Where We Go 1 We Go All,” a hashtag that expresses solidarity across all locales, flood QAnon chats. Japanese QAnon supporters are in it for the long haul.